How to Cook Barley


One of the cereal grains and part of the grass family, barley is a versatile and readily available grain that with a sweet, nutty taste that complements a number of dishes. Use it on its own or in conjunction with other foods to add this healthy grain to your diet.

Basic Barley Recipe

Barley is prepared much like any other grain. You can cook it in a saucepan over the stove or even in a rice cooker. For a basic barley side dish or for cooked barley to add to another recipe, you will need to use one part barley to three parts liquid.


  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 cups water or stock


Place the 3 cups of water or stock in a saucepan on a stove. Add a cup of barley and cover the pot. You can also add some salt to taste at this step. Set the temperature to high. Once the water begins to boil, turn the heat down to low ensuring it leaves the liquid at a mild simmer. Barley should cook completely in about 45 minutes, but is done when all the liquid is absorbed. Simply fluff with a fork after cooking and serve.

How to Cook Hot Barley Cereal

barley hot cereal

Pearled barley - the most commonly found variety - makes a wonderful change from oatmeal as a hot breakfast cereal. Prepare it on the stove top, or cook it overnight in the slow cooker for rich, hot breakfast.


  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit of your choice


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large, covered pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer
  3. Simmer for 45 to 60 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender.

How to Cook Barley and Vegetable Soup

Barley is most commonly used as a grain in soups, because it stands up well to continued cooking. Barley and vegetable soup is a classic, hearty dish to serve during the winter months.

Barley soup


  • 3/4 cup pearled barley
  • 11 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • Salt to taste


  • Combine the barley with three cups of vegetable stock in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat for one hour.
  • Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion, squash, celery, and mushrooms until tender.
  • Add the vegetables to the barley along with the additional stock and the kale.
  • Simmer on low for one hour.
  • Add salt to taste.

Cooking With Barley

Barley can be used in place of many different cereal grains. Ground, it can be used as a flour to bake breads; left whole it can be used in place of pasta in soups, stews, and side dishes. To help get the most from your barley, follow these tips.

Hulled and Pearled

Barley can be found in two different forms: hulled and pearled. Pearled is the most common. The grains have had their hull removed, and have been polished to remove the bran layer as well. Pearled barley cooks almost twice as quickly as the hulled variety, which merely has its outer hull removed. Hulled barley is closer to the whole grain, and contains more fiber than the pearled variety.

If you choose to use hulled barley in your foods, at least 30 additional minutes to your cooking time, and plan on adding up to 60 minutes if necessary.

Liquid to Grain Ratio

Both hulled and pearled barley will use approximately three cups of liquid for every one cup of grain. Adjust your recipes accordingly to include the necessary liquid.


Use barley in place of other grains, including:

  • Couscous
  • Rice
  • Oats

Barley can also be combined with other grains, such as mixing different types of rice with barley in a pilaf. Remember that barley is thicker than most other grains and may absorb more liquid or require a longer cooking time as a result.

Enjoy Your Food

Barley adds a rich flavor to many different foods. Try it in place of other cereal grains for breakfast or dinner and experience its flavors.

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How to Cook Barley